Basic teaching requirements for becoming an ESL or EFL teacher are a university degree (teaching diploma) and an English as Second Language certification. There are several types of ESL certification, which, more or less, have the same prerequisites. But still, they do have some differences.
To avoid confusion, let’s analyze these TEFL, TESL, TESOL, and CELTA certifications and see how they differ from each other.
A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification is required mostly in countries where English is not a native language, especially in China, Japan, and South Korea. These countries have a constant demand for TEFL certified teachers and offer competitive salary, which is above the standard market rate. If you are a native English-speaking teacher who wants to relocate abroad, then in most cases you need TEFL qualifications. Some countries don’t require a TEFL, but at the same time, they don’t offer legal employment.
Prerequisites that are needed for a TEFL certificate depend on the legislative system of the country where you are going to work. They can also depend on the institution that offers a TEFL course. In some countries, it’s enough just to be a native English speaker in order to become a TEFL qualified teacher. It’s also possible to undergo TEFL certification online, but some countries may not accept online certificates.
Please do not confuse TEFL with TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language, which is passed by non-native English students and not by teachers.
On the contrary to TEFL, a TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certification is required mostly in countries where English is a native language, such as US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In other words, if you are planning to remain in your home country and teach English to foreigners there, then TESL would be your best choice.
The prerequisites to become TESL certified can vary from country to country, so you need to study the teaching qualification requirements for your country. In most cases, you’ll need to undergo additional studies, including both theory and practice. You can also receive TESL certification online, but please study the requirements of your future employer beforehand to find out if they accept online certificates.
Read our article about the different teacher qualifications and certifications for becoming an ES/ EFL teacher.
A TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification combines the features of both TEFL and TESL certifications. In other words, TESOL certified teachers can teach English to non-native speakers both in English-speaking countries and in countries where English is not a native language. If you haven’t decided whether you are planning to relocate, stay at home, or teach English online, then you’d better aim at TESOL. However, please be aware that in some non-native English countries you’ll get more employment chances with the TEFL certificate than with the TESOL certificate.
Again, the program of TESOL certification may vary from school to school. Your choice of the program may depend on your future employer and their requirements. It’s also possible to undergo TESOL certification online, but some countries and/or employers may require only classroom certification.
CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) is substantially the same as TESOL. The difference is that this certification is accredited by Cambridge University. CELTA is designed for:
- Candidates with little or no previous experience teaching the English language.
- Candidates with some English teaching experience, but not much training in teaching.
- Candidates who wish to gain an internationally-recognized qualification.
The candidates should have English language skills at a level that equals at least C1, which means effective operational proficiency. CELTA courses can be taken either on a full-time or on a part-time basis.
To summarize, the TEFL/TESL/TESOL terms are often used interchangeably, but it’s important to understand the differences:
- TEFL is for teaching English as a foreign language in non-native English countries.
- TESL is for teaching English as a second language to foreigners in native English countries.
- TESOL is for teaching English as a foreign/second language in any country.
- CELTA is a variant of TESOL that is accredited by Cambridge University.
What qualifications do you need to teach online?
It’s possible to receive ESL certification online. In addition to degree and certificate, an online English teacher should be proficient with internet-based technology and teaching tools. For example, they should know how to use document sharing services and messengers with screen sharing features.
Colleges and universities now are offering certificates and/or degrees in education with online emphasis. These certificates and degrees vary from certificates in teaching online, to a master’s degree in teaching online, to online education design and development.
VIPKID offers online English teaching jobs to candidates who meet the following requirements:
- Eligibility to work in the US or Canada.
- Bachelor’s degree in any field.
- 1 school year of traditional teaching experience or the equivalent in mentoring, tutoring, or alternative education.
For more information about teaching online with VIPKID, check out these frequently asked questions.